Finished July 1
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
I loved this novel. It is split into 4 parts. The first part occurs when Rose is turning 9. Her mother makes a lemon-chocolate cake for her birthday, and it tastes odd to Rose, empty, hollow, sad. She seems to understand quickly why, that she is able to taste the emotions of the person making food. From now on, this is constant, and she reverts to eating mass-produced food as a means of protecting herself. Some foods she finds herself unable to eat at all. She is unable to tell her parents, as she finds herself privy to her mother's emotions. She is only a young girl, and often the emotions she tastes are too much for her. She tells her brother's friend George, and he is intrigued, having her test food somewhere else. Her brother, Joseph, is aware, but has his own issues.
The next part is when she is twelve and has learned to deal better with her ability. She still has issues with some food, but has tasted a difference in her mother's emotions lately that make it easier for her to eat food prepared by her. She has grown to learn tastes of food grown in different areas, made in different factories. It is now that she becomes aware of her brother's issues more, and is concerned and curious about what is going on with him.
The third part is when she is seventeen, and even more able to deal with her ability. Her brother has moved out and become more insular, rarely venturing from his apartment. When something dramatic happens with him, she is the only one truly aware of what is happening.
These first three parts are all times that change her life in significant ways.
The fourth part takes place in the years following the third part. Rose finishes high school and begins working. She experiments with food in the restaurants surrounding her home, working her way further and further out, finding ones she can manage and some she even enjoys. As she does so, she becomes more aware of the secrets of her family, She begins to make connections to others and find a life for herself that she can look forward to.
This book begins with a very interesting premise, one that becomes more nuanced through the course of the novel. This book is about Rose, but also about family secrets, the feeling of being different from others, and how that affects relationships with others.